The Educational Potential of Asynchronous Text Discussion Spaces

Subject: Psychology
Type: Exploratory Essay
Pages: 13
Word count: 3487
Topics: Communication, Community Service, Teaching Philosophy

Executive summary

This paper will explore the educational potential of asynchronous text discussion spaces, designs available, evaluate the implementation process, alternatives, personal experiences, and various theories and empirical literature on asynchronous text discussion spaces. Most researchers believe that asynchronous text discussion spaces facilitate multidimensional processes of assessment shown in the ways of aspects of structures, self-regulatory activities, and students’ autonomy. Most students value this discussion as a center of learning and an essential component in their studies. 


Most education centers are adopting and implementing online discussion spaces and other asynchronous communication tools. According to Anderson et al. (2015), asynchronous communication is a tool which enables individuals in different locations or separated by time and space to engage in meaningful production and sharing of knowledge. The challenges most educators and institutions are facing is in trying to understand what asynchronous communication tools are and which pedagogical online learning systems are the bests to help their students. Andresen (2009) explains that online learning needs the reconstruction of roles of both the students and instructors. Reconstruction should not be only in the roles but also in relations and practices. I believe that asynchronous text discussion spaces offer students experiences which are meaningful since there is a good participatory learning environment. When one closely observes the text discussion spaces, they are designed to help the users to feel that they are in a community and that they are free to engage in collaborative discussions. Students can construct meaning to different related courses. According to Andresen (2009), users who participate in these learning spaces involve in a sequence of very complex activities that require the users to reflect on their learning practices and develop new identities as students. 

If the asynchronous participatory learning is to develop to a community then the efforts in the text-based system are to come from all the participants; they have to feel present and involved within the space. Most people still do not understand how social, cognitive and teaching presence have effects on users’ engagement (Clark, Strudler, and Grove, 2015). In my opinion, no matter how participants interact, the interaction alone does not instill a feeling of social presence. The participants need structures installed by the designers or teachers or the users themselves to ensure engagement in meaningful ways. Most people who engage in the text discussion spaces they undergo some developmental changes that usually involve getting to understand the environment and accepting the new environment as a new experience. Most users get some adjustments as students and get to understand the roles of the instructors. When all participants understand how to use the technologies involved in conducting their learning, navigate through different materials, and communicate effectively with other users then the learning in the text discussion space can be successful. 

Asynchronous discussion tools can be essential in supporting the process of assessment for learning and the learning of students and assessment to enhance student learning processes. There are various theoretical frameworks and empirical literature which will be discussed later to show the education potential of asynchronous discussion spaces. In addition, they will show how students benefit through asynchronous discussion environments and how the processes are impacted.

Describing the designs

Shared Editor Design

This model concentrates on the interaction with the document. This process of sharing will be through a shared editor. Notably, the structure is user-defined or system enforced. Such dichotomy can be seen from the reviews of the already present shared applications. This application put to use the model of a document to put the structure in place .a system enforced structure is formed on the basis of roles within the task. Others put the very little constraint on those using it, hence giving them permission to structure their job. Moallem (2015) explains that a document is looked at as a hierarchy of fragments where the latter is done automatically by the system. This is done on the basis of an already existing fragmentation set of rules. Each fragment entails different numbers of versions which are directly in the document. The version is not kept externally .users can select aspect version for display whenever they open the document. Users are presented with a recognizable structure which is also deemed consistent. This is important to asynchronous users who can be able to determine the nature of the document through representations of graphics. It also has an easy way of referent establishment through the use of the tree is viewed as object-oriented with specific characteristics attached to them. The document owner has the mandate of changing the rights (Loncar, Barrett, and Liu, 2014). Styles are allocated to sections within the the beginning of a collaboration, the roles should be clearly defined. Notably, a useful means of structuring and organizing collaborative working is through role enforcement. This reduces the duplication of activities. Within the interaction, users can be able to predict and know their responsibilities. Use of emergent social protocols can be the other alternative to users. The rigid role enforcement can be inflexible to incorporate a variety of techniques of group writing. 

Conversation Space Design

Text-based communication is good over ephemeral talks. This is because it is reviewable. Users in asynchronous might use this design because previous texts and conversations are reviewable. If the users deleted the texts, the history of the context might be lost. Space design also allows generation of texts if the user is registered with the design. There the use of directed messaging whereby a participant can direct messages to one participants or a group as compared to all of them. The space design uses sequential non-linear text making users not to confuse texts from participants. Users are given contextual histories and they are able to view new messages or chats. Participants’ activities is an important source of contextual information. Information about the users is maximized. According to Schellens and Valcke (2005), an environment that is in support of textual distributed information then the clues available are often limited.  

Users in this design when editing the environment they would need information on the previous activities; such as contextual interactions. The participants are given valuable information on the messages. Space has features which can be incorporated to accompany the texts automatically. For instance, the name of the user or the participant who wrote the message accompanies the text. Messages generated in the system can show when the user was online and during which sessions. 

These designs have all been designed to support collaborative tasks. When students sit in a computer, they need a reason to collaborate. These designs have been made to provide rich contexts for people to do in groups. Depending on the tasks, learners have something to chat and text about. These designs provide joint multimedia activities where students can discuss and text in their discussions. If these designs increase task complexity and richness of task and problem solving then there will be increased and effective text based spaces. These designs have employed instructional strategies to more texting in order to address the tasks being solved. These designs have been constructed effectively to ensure asynchronous communication in the text based designs are authentic problem contexts and can help learners to handle tasks through active engagements. Have been aligned with pedagogy to ensure they over the time and location challenges. Learners can know when to share and what to share. Learners can share information, ask questions, conduct argument and divide labor effectively. These designs have been created to help the students conduct their group discussions using diverse interaction forms and using the space effectively for their shared tasks. There is also a record of what transpires. 

Asynchronous Discussion Environments

There is various type of asynchronous discussion environments. These environments include constrained, visualized, anchored, and combined environments. From the productive discussion model, there is a pre-structured form of environment contained in the constrained, which allow the users to participate in various ways. Users are required to start their arguments with particular phrases or label their notes. The idea behind these environments is that these structured environments can enhance the user’s metacognitive thinking and have the carry out desired cognitive processes (Loncar, Barrett, and Liu, 2014). Most scholars argue that this environment increases frequent arguments especially for starters but they are very efficient to a participant who is less curious and is not assertive. Students are given a variety of comments to incorporate in their messages. Students benefit in this environments by generating more evidence and more hypothesis. These environments’ main goals are to promote effective asynchronous argumentation by providing users with note starters other labels. Even though the participants are confined to particular responses and restricted to others.

The visualized environments are maps or tables critical in the creation of graphical representations of various perspectives and their relationships. According to Tang and Hew (2017), participants get benefits from co-constructing graphics since the construction procedure links new claims to past graphs and data in the cells might prompt users’ certain cognitive processes. This environment helps the participants to solve problems and hold coherent arguments. Learners are able to share information between themselves and select the best option for themselves. There is active interaction and active knowledge and interaction. Participants are in an environment that encourages them to think analytically. This environment can be complicated hence users are advised to have flexible discussion flows. Anchored environments support sustained on-topic arguments and discussions. According to Watson, Wilson, Drew and Thompson (2016), researchers argue that this environment if it is focused on the topic and sustained over a certain time frame then there will be positive outcomes on the meaning. Comments appear beside the associated texts such that discussions are within the specific content. Webern and Epost are some websites which support anchored discussion of online documents. Discussions in these environments are more focused since users always referred to a particular text for discussion making it more focused. The communication is also effective. In the anchored environments, users can choose whether to use the threaded discussions or use anchored environments in their process of study to enable sharing of annotations. There is always a positive correlation between quality of annotations and participants final grades. These environments have a common aim of promoting contextualized and focused the discussion on learning. Comprehension and critiquing are highly encouraged. Specific contents are contrasted, compared and discussed without complications. 

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The final environments are the combined environments which combine more than one of the other environments. CaMILE and Knowledge Forum are some of the combined environments. Some share features of anchored and constrained environments giving their users some particular features such as creating notes, and linking them to other media. Users can upload notes beside the texts to ensure the discussion is consistent with the notes. Discussions are focused on topics and are more sustained with a broad participation. Knowledge Forum combines the three environments giving the users wide services. Users can use particular phrases and upload notes or artifacts to support their statements. There are graphical forums which help users to think analytically. Watson, Wilson, Drew and Thompson (2016), support that there are not many studies which have been conducted on these environments but combined environments offer students with many advantages and have quality discussions. 


This section will evaluate the implementation of a high level collaborative system. The asynchronous text discussion spaces are updated frequently and build to carry enormous data. They can handle weekly data which is consistent. Some as data spaces have collaborative bibliographic database which enables the users to modify entries and generate citations to specific entries. All citations are generated automatically. Users can use the application simultaneously without the system crashing. Asynchronous text discussion spaces have group calendars that manage resources. Participants can know the exact time and dates texts where shared and when to meet next. There is conference room scheduling since most text spaces minimize multi-user coordination. Participants are allowed to request for alternatives. Users can access these systems using various shared artifacts. Modems, laptops, tablets, and phones are all managed to ensure smooth running of applications. During implementation, all asynchronous text spaces should have applications which maintain dependencies among the artifacts and copies binary codes for serves and user applications to their devices. Asynchronous sites are supposed to guarantee data safety of the users and also create security certificates for its users. The system must have a time wrap system which is a toolkit used in construction of collaborative applications. This system provides more functions which have been designed specifically to support collaboration. This system enables mechanism for awareness, coordination, versioning and multiuser data access to run efficiently (Yang, Newby and Bill, 2005). Most systems use single centralized servers which assist in the coordination of client applications running to the collaboration machine. Most systems are implemented using Java or the RMI system (Remote Method Invocation). Updates are done frequently in these systems to ensure most participants are up-to-date. There is a common application called Bayou which addresses issue concerning users and instructors of asynchronous text discussion spaces. 

Before a system is implemented the following applications have to be evaluated. The system must support efficiency anywhere despite time or space. Users must be able to access data anywhere in their locations. The system must have applications for managing conflicts automatically. Applications must be designed to have particular procedures to follow to resolve conflicts. Users are not supposed to intervene in conflict resolution but the system should resolve them automatically. The system should support a smooth transition between various servers. Participants should only choose the progression of the sessions and activities. Applications should detect any changes and notify the system. The system should be flexible to support any granularity of the information shared. If effective transitions are to happen then there should be servers to enhance effective collaboration in the operations. 

Different alternatives

Asynchronous technologies help students’ access information or communicate when they are different locations and a different time. Most recorded media are asynchronous. DVDs, books, YouTube videos, and lectures recorded or captured, online discussion forums and information which can be streamed. Learners can log into their accounts and access different technologies at times and places of their choice. Zheng and Warschauer (2015), explain that asynchronous which takes place at the different time but the same place includes self-managed labs, workshops, studios, libraries, and learning centers. Asynchronous which takes place at a different place and different time include recorded media, books, cassettes, online discussion forums, lecture captured videos, blogs, and streamed videos.

Personal Experiences

I believe that there are many benefits associated with asynchronous text discussion spaces. The ability of these spaces to enable one to access information at different places and time offer one control and flexibility. As a student, I spent most of the in tasks since materials were online and available. While some students prefer listening to recorded audios, in prefer watching videos. Since it is easier to remember what you have seen. There is coordination of texts and pictures in the videos for instance in calculations of mathematics. Recorder lectures are essential since there offer flexible information and one can access than at any time. It is easier to be up-to-date with the instructor. There many learning benefits in using the reordered lectures. Tasks such as tests and feedbacks on particular questions can be incorporated in the lectures in order to access complete information. 

The way one can access media asynchronous easily through streaming information is one of the biggest potentials of text discussion spaces. However, most higher education sector still buses live seminar or lectures, online discussion forums have also become common. The internet is also essential in ensuring that all other media are encompassed in this medium. This medium offers milestone services and many advantages in the teaching and learning sector. Instructors and students can exploit various technologies to ensure that they have a specific design they will use in the learning process. Online discussion text spaces offer students a chance to be responsible for their learning process. The instructor still has the responsibility of creating a learning environment that will encourage proper interaction of some learning environments where data is provided by the learning management systems, student participation and attributes of performance are not based on skills. Most authors base their studies and opinions on students’ reports hence the results do not seem to be significant. It is worth noting that the communication is affected either positively or negatively by the medium in use. Conference students always bring in external materials and use them to link ideas to solutions whereas face to face students was seen to be innovative with ideas. Although the lack of meeting by computer conferencing students creates less visual cues hence much of a challenge. This makes the computer conferencing students less interactive. This perspective can grounded in theoretical and empirical literature as shown below. 

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Theoretical framework and Empirical Literature

The theoretical framework is based on several basic elements of social presence, cognitive presence, and the teaching presence. Social presence entails the ability of participants in a specified community to focus on the projection of their personal traits and characteristics in the community giving them a chance to be real. Beckmann and Mahanty (2015), explains that the teaching presence is further characterized by three areas which are direct instruction, discussion facilitation, and finally instructional design. Social presence and support cognitive presence ensure the creation of a proper communication environment. The group nature of social presence results in a dynamic relationship exists. The individual is core but most important is the group interaction and cohesion. Student’s performance has been seen to improve whenever they are accorded the chance to take part synchronously via video conferencing as compared to those who use text-based learning. Online discussions via texts enhance group affiliation and cohesion which help the learners to belong which consequently increase participation and engagement. Creation of social space is the way to creating a collaborative environment for learning. The environment must be conducive to enable a smooth running of the creation of social spaces. If the text discussion spaces are to thrive then social interactions have to take place among the participants (Ching and Hsu, 2015). 

Discussion forums must have an environment which promotes group cohesiveness, respect, sense of belonging and community, satisfaction and trust. If the users are social then the sociability provides the necessary structures to develop social presences. If users are present then there are high chances that learning and transfer of information are taking place. Through the use of asynchronous videos, chatting tools, and texting tools, learning has increased since this is a communication tool. Teaching in asynchronous is not controlled by the instructors but also by the students. Learners also assist in the development of the learning and teaching presence by facilitating discussions and dialogues on various courses. If the discussion spaces have the right group sizes then there are efficient task-oriented interactions. According to Gao, Franklin, and Zhang (2013), a small number of members ensures equal participation. Even though large groups might increase the time that is needed for communication channels to be developed. Text discussions forums have education potentials because the members form relationships quickly enhancing the quality of discussions, proper communication, accuracy and transparency among the members. There is also a high retention among students in the asynchronous forums. If there is social presence then the instructors minimize loneliness by missing face-to-face interactions. In asynchronous discussion texts then it is very imperative or the students to be present to decrease isolation cases. Instructors have to be lively and present to ensure isolation cases are reduced. The instructor must be a role model and a guide if education is going to take place as expected (Hew, 2015). They must model communication and facilitate the students’ expectations. 

Most asynchronous learning forums which have failed are as a result of lack of social and academic integration as the main primary factors. Intellectual development is very essential since it is one of the main goals of the forums. This can be achieved through social presence and cooperation. If a group is united and understand the main goals of the group then this environment will foster group cohesion (Hung and Chou, 2015). The group will be a community which is ready to learn, help each other and share information.


The educational potential of asynchronous text discussion spaces is very high and effective. If there are maximum teaching and social presence then the discussions will be more effective. If all the participants are to send texts with relevant information then these text-based forums will be effective. The text-based discussion platforms offer sociability, social spaces and a freedom of expressing ideas freely. Even though in some texts based platforms, the participants cannot see each other but the sense of being a community helps in reducing isolation hence promoting group cohesion and need for community. The text-based discussions increase learning and teaching presence.

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  1. Anderson, T., Upton, L., Dron, J., Malone, J. and Poelhuber, B., 2015. Social interaction in self-paced distance education. Open Praxis7(1), pp.7-23. 
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  11. Schellens, T. and Valcke, M., 2005. Collaborative learning in asynchronous discussion groups: What about the impact on cognitive processing?. Computers in Human Behavior21(6), pp.957-975. 
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